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Early Modern English Women Dramatists (1610-1690): New Perspectives

Wynne-Davies, M (2011) Early Modern English Women Dramatists (1610-1690): New Perspectives In: The History of British Women's Writing, 1610-1690. History of British Women's Writing, 3 (10). Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, UK, pp. 187-203. ISBN 0230224601

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In 1991 I applied for a lectureship at one of the UK’s leading universities; during the interview I was asked, by a staunch feminist critic, to name the Englishwomen dramatists from the Early Modern period. Before I could reply, she hastily corrected herself, ‘Oh, but of course there aren’t any, are there,’ choosing instead to ask about Early Modern women poets. Had I thought out an answer, I would have referred to two women, Elizabeth Cary and Mary Sidney, both of whose dramatic works had already been published.1 Still, I was forced to reconsider: the question had been well-intentioned and the questioner’s afterthought arose, not from a lack of commitment to women’s writing, but from the almost total lack of existing printed material – editorial and critical – devoted to Early Modern women dramatists. It was this throwaway comment that fuelled my own interest and led me to trace plays by sixteenth and seventeenth century Englishwomen, culminating in the collection, Renaissance Drama by Women: Texts and Documents (1996) that I edited with S.P.Cerasano.2 This essay sets out to follow some of that editorial and critical history, building upon the strengths of previous scholarship in order to suggest possible initiatives for the present and future. The study is divided into four sections: the first offers an overview of who the Early Modern women dramatists were and what they wrote; the second focuses on the availability of primary material and criticism; and the third looks at the perennial question of performance and performability. The fourth section consists of three ‘case studies’ that focus upon thematic issues raised in the previous sections: Innovation: Elizabeth Cary’s Edward II; Performability: Margaret Cavendish’s The Sociable Companions; and Continuity; Frances Boothby’s Marcelia. Through this discursive process I intend to locate and highlight areas where new perspectives are being, and need to be, generated. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I didn’t get the job.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages > English
Authors :
Wynne-Davies, M
Editors :
Suzuki, M
Date : 19 January 2011
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 01 Mar 2013 10:58
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:00

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